Does My Generation Care About Quality Goods?

As a little girl I clearly remember watching my dad polish his work shoes. With a little tin of polish and a soft cotton rag he’d shine those shoes to look like new. When the soles began peeling back he’d drive to the local shoe repair shop to have them replaced and he continued to wear those shoes for years.

I will concede that for many of us the workplace has become much more casual and it may be true that shoe polishing is simply no longer necessary, but I often wonder if my generation cares less about quality goods than my parent’s. You can buy shoes so cheaply these days that no one thinks much about throwing out a worn out pair in favor of brand new ones.

When I got my first serious internship in college my grandmother took me out to Nordstrom’s and bought me two pairs of high quality pants. I had them hemmed by a tailor and wore them for years. In fact, I’m certain if those pants still fit, I would still be wearing them today.

I remember my mom wearing the same dresses year after year. If they were torn or in need of a new hem, she’d either fix them herself, or take them to the local tailor, but as I search through my closets and dresser I find very few articles of clothing that I would consider taking to a tailor. Many of the clothes I own are poorly made and not worth fixing.

My grandmother, who is 85 years old, believes in buying a few, solid, high quality items in favor of a hundred poorly made ones. She says a quality garment will last for years and years and she has the clothes in her closet to prove it. These days I find myself shopping less and less and buying very little, but the next time I purchase an item I may have to take quality into consideration. Not only will quality goods last much longer but they’ll also leave a smaller imprint on the earth. After all, the more you own and maintain items over longer periods of time, the fewer items can end up in the landfill.

8 thoughts on “Does My Generation Care About Quality Goods?”

  1. I learned to sew when I was young, so often when I buy clothes, I’ll look at construction. For cheap items, I don’t care, but I’ve put clothes back on the rack before because they were too cheaply made for the price.

    Most of my clothes were purchased for relatively cheap, but I generally try to make them last as long as I can.

    (When I was young, I got to polish my dad’s shoes! I loved doing it. It was so cool to make them shiny and new.)

  2. This is one of the sad truths of our generation. Quality has taken a backseat to “disposable clothing”. I will admit to, however, dutifully polishing my shoes. It was something I learned from my father and the military and it gave me insurance those shoes would last for years. There is a backlash though. Many college campuses have individual boycotts on companies who use sweatshops (did I say Walmart?) and hopefully this might lead to better quality items if not better circumstances for those working in those places. Nonetheless, when it comes to quality, you get what you pay for most of the time.


  3. I run into this all the time and it’s so frustrating! My 7 month old cell phone just broke and everyone in my office was like, oh, 7 months? That’s a long time for a refurbished phone. Nuts to that!!

    But my friends think I’m crazy because I DO still do things like buy and tailor one pair of $150 pants, I bake my own bread (and cook almost all the rest of the food for me and my fiance…we’re die-hard brown-bagging health-conscious vegetarians), and I have no lust for the newest, shiniest things, despite the fact that I work in tech marketing.

    Do a quick google for all the recent articles on the “new victorians” though – our generation does seem to be part of a turning tide that seems, at least, to be more interested in homemaking and quality…maybe. Or maybe it’s all a Martha Stewart nostalgic fantasy we’re trying to create.

  4. My uncle spent years trying to teach me that quality was better than quantity. I think the first time I applied the knowledge he tried to impress was when I was shopping for some nice dress shoes to wear for his funeral. I got some good black leather heels that will be useful for many situations, especially during the next year when I will begin my professional job hunt. It’s odd how these moments of clarity sneak up on us.

  5. My great grandmother passed away when I was 6 years old. When my mother went through all of her clothes she found things that she had in there for at least 20 years and were still in good condition.

    Funny thing is my mom saved two of my great grandmothers wool winter coats. They looked brand new. And I now wear them every winter and they still look brand new. Everyone compliments me on them and asks where I bought them.

    Both of them are long coats and very warm. Last year I bought a shorter wool coat and spent around $100.00. That coat is now starting to fall apart. The lining is starting to rip. I gave up and went back to great grandmas coats.

    I now try to buy quality rather than quantity.

  6. Quality is great, but if your grandmother hadn’t bought the nice pants for you, you would have had to buy some yourself to get started with. Those pants likely would have been less expensive, and less well made, simply because they were a necessity. While I would love to buy nicer things than I have, I often find myself having to go cheap because I need something to wear then. We’re not talking 10 pairs of cheap $30 pants vs. two $150 pairs, but simply just two $30 pairs. You can’t always just wait until you have the money saved for the better quality purchase.

    I do my own mending and such, though, more out of necessity than anything, and typically make the cheap clothes last for years.

  7. it can be hard to justify the higher price of something well made, but i think once you try it, you realize it’s totally worth it.

    i think it’s terrible that we live in such a disposable culture and people don’t care to fix things because it’s easier and cheaper just to buy something new. it’s getting harder and harder to find the quality stuff, even if you are willing to pay for it.

  8. I too subscribe to the philosophy of quality over quantity, but my biggest problem is finding “quality” goods priced for their value. The higher quality materials and more skilled labor that made Grandma’s coats were more abundant in her time than in ours. I don’t trust that expense equals quality, and though I’d be willing to pay the expense for quality, have trouble finding quality items. These days, it seems like you can’t choose to buy better items — more money will only buy you more bells and whistles that you don’t need on top of the same cheap base. everything is planned for obselescence and consumers just keep buying.


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